Who Was Pericles?:
Pericles was a leader of Athens who was responsible for rebuilding Athens following the Persian Wars. He was also leader of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, but he died of the plague that ravaged the city. He was so important that the era in which he lived (during the 5th Century B.C.) is known as the Age of Pericles.
Family of Origin:
Pericles was the son of Xanthippus and Agariste. Xanthippus, a military leader in the Persian Wars, victorious at the battle at Mycale, was the son of one Ariphron and the father of another. Ariphron II was a candidate for ostracism. Xanthippus himself was ostracized in spring 484. Agariste was from the Alcmeon family, which was accused of treachery at the Battle of Marathon.
1st Public Office:
Pericles, Cimon, and Democracy:
In the 460s, the Helots rebelled against the Spartans who asked for help from Athens. In response to Sparta's request for help, Athens' leader, Cimon, led troops into Sparta. The Spartans sent them back, probably fearing the effects of Athenian democratic ideas. When he returned, Cimon was ostracized. Cimon had favored Athens' oligarchic adherents. The opposing faction now in power, was the democratic. A descendant of democracy's founder Cleisthenes, Pericles came to power in about 460.
The office of military archon or strategos, usually translated into English as general, was elected. Pericles was elected strategos for the next 29 years.
The Long Walls:
From about 458-56, Pericles had the Long Walls built between Athens and the Piraeus, a peninsula with three harbors about 4.5 miles from Athens.
Radical Democracy and Citizenship Law:
Among the contributions made by Pericles to the Athenian democracy was the payment of magistrates. This was one reason the Athenians under Pericles decided to limit the people eligible to hold office. Only those born to two people of Athenian citizen status could henceforth be citizens and eligible. Children of foreign mothers would be excluded. Metic is the word for a foreigner living in the city. Since a metic woman couldn't produce citizen children, when Pericles had an affair with Aspasia of Miletus, he couldn't or, at least, didn't marry her.